Did you shun stocks in 2019 based on a century-old forecasting tool known as Dow Theory? Run screaming from the market because of ever-worsening readings in a gauge of factory output? Or maybe you sold short as freight shipments slid to some of the lowest levels in a decade.

You probably wish you hadn’t, in retrospect. Last year was a bad one to get wrong. The S&P 500 surged 29%. Strategies reliant on signals sent from America’s industrial underbelly had a particularly awful showing.

While millions of people remain employed by the old economy, devotion to indicators tied to its health has been something less than a route to riches during the latest leg of the bull market. Analysts are asking whether American industry has evolved so far away from plants and machinery over the last three decades that once-tried-and-true investing signals are losing their pull.

“Manufacturing is not as important as it was in the past,” said Chris Gaffney, president of world markets at TIAA. “The global economy is not as dependent on those numbers.”

Few trends in the economy were noted with as much displeasure last year as the deterioration in manufacturing. But if you let all the paranoia convince you to sell, the mistake turned out to be a costly one.

The ISM Manufacturing PMI fell below 50 (the level that divides expansion from contraction) in August and stayed there the rest of the year. The S&P 500 closed lower on all but one of the reporting days since, posting an average decline of 0.6%, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. But whoever sold has missed out on a 16% rally over the past five months.

Or take Dow Theory, which says that unless a rally in industrial stocks is accompanied by one in transportation stocks, you should steer clear of the whole market. Except for last year, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed to records 22 times to its counterpart’s zero, and sitting out would’ve cost investors a combined $6 trillion.

Underperformance in the transportation gauge -- stuffed with railroads, global shippers, and airline companies -- is nothing new. Over the last five years, Dow transports have returned 38% including dividends, less than half of the S&P 500’s 81%. That recently pushed a measure of relative performance for transport stocks versus the broader market to a decade-long low.

“We haven’t really gotten the transports ever to go above a significant high point,” said Richard Moroney, the editor of the Dow Theory Forecasts newsletter and chief investment officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana. “It wasn’t like they were breaking down and giving you a bearish indication, they just weren’t confirming the bullish indication. You want to use it in line with other indicators.”

Last summer, strategists at Morgan Stanley highlighted the Cass Freight Index, which in essence measures the flow of goods through shipments, as underpinning a bear case. At the time, Mike Wilson, the firm’s chief U.S. equity strategist, cited the metric as an input to call for a 10% correction in the third quarter. The S&P 500 fell 6% a month later before bouncing.

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